Forgiving People Who Don’t Want It

Many people read the words of Jesus and conclude a Christian is obligated to forgive everyone, every time, for everything or that Christian will not be forgiven. How would you respond?

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. —Matthew 6:14, 15, ESV

Yes. And many believe people are saved by faith alone. John 3:14–16, John 5:24, John 6:40, Acts 10:43, Acts 16:31

And to those I reply, you have to believe and obey all the Bible says about salvation. Warner Holloway made a statement when I was preaching in Dalton, Georgia, that’s been helpful to me: “When the Bible says something is necessary for salvation, it takes that much. It may take more but what the Lord said was necessary is necessary.” You can’t isolate one or two scriptures and say you have all the Lord’s will when there’s more written on the subject.

Jesus was right about forgiveness in Matthew 6:14, 15. But there are more red letters about forgiveness in the Bible:

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” — Luke 17:3, 4

Questions About Luke 17:3, 4

  • If you had your choice, would you rather forgive your brother before you rebuke him/her or instead of rebuking him/her?
  • If I rebuke my brother and he does not repent, should I forgive him?
  • What does Jesus mean in Luke 17:3, 4?
  • What does the word, if, mean to you?
  • How could deciding to always forgive or never forgive save time when deciding how to relate to someone who has hurt you?
  • How can you give someone something they don’t want?
  • Would it be better to get ready to forgive someone, start the process, and let the person decide when and if they want to receive it? Luke 15:11–24

The following is Barber – not Bible: It’s been my observation and experience that I am inclined to make “rules” to remove the necessity of talking and confrontation.

  1. One way to do that is never forgiving. I won’t forgive. Since I’ve come to that conclusion, I don’t have to talk to the offender because I’ve already decided not to forgive him regardless of what he says or does. That gives me some immediate relief because confrontation is painful to me.
  2. But there’s another way. I can decide to forgive everyone every time they sin against me (or God). Again, I don’t address the transgression. That’s more comfortable for me since my anxiety rises in anticipation and in the execution of confrontation. Although either of these “rules” brings short-term relief, it’s my understanding that neither is biblical.

Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” — Luke 17:3, 4

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Jerrie Barber
Disciple of Jesus, husband, grandfather, preacher, barefoot runner, ventriloquist

4 Responses to “Forgiving People Who Don’t Want It

  • Cindy Lynn
    2 years ago

    I hear people say you forgive someone if they ask you to do this. But, I have, from experience, learned you can forgive someone even if they don’t ask. I did this very thing about 25 years ago. My husband became unfaithful. After enduring this for 3 years. i finally left him. I started working on forgiving him without his asking for forgiveness. That is what I had to do in order to heal. I can honestly say today, I am doing great with God’s help.

    • Jerrie W. Barber
      2 years ago

      Did he receive your forgiveness? I understand you get ready to forgive. When the prodigal son came home, the father was ready for the party. The father didn’t wait until he came home to get ready to accept him. He had the robe, ring, shoes, and the calf was ready for eating. He received him gladly. However, he didn’t send the gifts to the pig pen while the son was still in the far country. You work through your bitterness for your spiritual health. I can’t force a person to receive something they don’t want.

    • Rick Kelley
      2 years ago

      I am sorry you had to endure this. As a minister for over twenty years and a husband for 25, I’ve thought about this quite a lot. Owen Olbricht had one of the best articles I’ve ever read on this subject in an issue of the now ceased Therefore Stand periodical edited by W. Terry Varner. In it, he pointed out that there are two types of forgiveness: minor infractions and annoyances, which are to be let go without the benefit of one’s asking (Eph 4:31-32), and true sins, which must be addressed properly. Further, what you are describing is not so much the offering of forgiveness, but the release or dismissal of the grudge so as to carry on with your life emotionally. Whether or not you can extend forgiveness for the wrong done against you is yet to be seen until/unless the situation is actually confronted, which, in reality, doesn’t happen often in such situations.

    2 years ago